I can count on one hand the number of times I have outright declared to someone “HEY. I am a FEMINIST.” And every single time it has been to a close friend who has probably already come to that conclusion on their own. (It sort of oozes out of me.) Truthfully, it took me a while (nearly 20 years) to admit it to myself and be proud of it. Isn’t that fucking ridiculous? I think Jessica Valenti says it best in the introduction to her book Full Frontal Feminism.
“I don’t know why I didn’t call myself a feminist until I was in college. I certainly was one way before then. I think we all are. I mean, really, what young girl hasn’t thought at some point that some sexist bullshit is completely unfair to women? The problem seems to be putting a name on that feeling. “Feminism is just too scary and loaded a word for some women. Which is really too bad. Because feminism is a pretty amazing thing.”
Jessica later states that she felt “completely confused about why more young women wouldn’t embrace something that to [her] was clearly the greatest thing ever.” I’m confused too, Jessica. I’m confused and upset and tired and offended.
I’m upset that society has turned feminism into an ugly word. I’m tired of feeling like the only person in the room raging against patriarchy and loving it. I’m offended by the fact that the most demeaning, degrading terms you can throw at a person are all words that describe women.
I want to create a space where I can share thoughts, internet finding, observations, stories, artwork, etc. about feminism, sex, gender issues, and everything in between. Sometimes it might get uncomfortable, but that’s when happens when you talk about thinks that matter, right? I want Still We Rise to be a place where I can start a conversation.
A few months ago, a friend sent me this poem by Maya Angelou. Like most good things, I wasn’t expecting the gift of a poem at that particular moment. I also wasn’t prepared for how deeply I would connect with the words he had passed on to me.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Did you read it out loud? It helps if you read it out loud. I don’t think you read it out loud. Go back! Read it out loud. Just do it. For me, ok?
Alright, cool. I’m not going to use this space to rip apart this poem and analyze it to death, or describe in detail what it means to me. I’m just going to say that I’m super lucky to have a selection of passionate, independent, and brilliant feminist women in my life. I watch them rise above the stereotypes and embrace the struggle that is being a woman everyday. But…I want to know more! It took me a long time to understand that the way I felt about the world and the critical way I viewed things was, in fact, through a feminist lens. (I just wasn’t paying attention.) It is so clear to me the feminist movement isn’t dead because women are still asked to rise above and put up with endless amounts of sexist bullshit on a disturbingly regular basis.
Still. We. Rise